People are allowed to address Council twice for five minutes each. One session is for items on the meeting agenda and another is for items not on the agenda.
But Mollette wants to let citizens speak during the conference portion of the meetings also. The conference portion is less formal than the legislative session. The Council uses it to discuss upcoming issues.
“This change would involve providing the public the opportunity to testify in favor of, or in opposition to, the proposed legislation before Council,” Mollette wrote in a letter to Mayor Jim Kalb. “This paradigm shift would provide the public an avenue to speak to Council on the issues and receive a response.”
He said the public also may suggest changes or amendments to upcoming legislation.
“It provides an avenue for Council to better communicate with the public and allows the public to be a part of the solution and not a victim of the system,” Mollette wrote.
Those wanting to address City Council would fill out a form beforehand detailing what they plan to talk about, according to Mollette's plan.
When residents address Council now, they usually do not get their questions answered. That is because the time is only for residents' comments.
However, Council members have occasionally made exceptions to that rule.
Kalb said there are advantages to both letting people speak and not letting them speak.
“It's really up to City Council,” he said. “People say the conference session is the mayor's meeting, but it's for Council's benefit. But it could turn into a very lengthy process if you allow people to talk back and forth.”
Councilman David Malone is against allowing residents to speak at the conference meeting. He said they may make personal remarks against others or speak too long. But he said some residents already speak during the conference session, even though they are not allowed to.
“We don't need to change what we have,” Malone said. “I hope it stays the way it is. We don't need to give more opportunity to speak.”
Councilman Tim Loper also opposes allotting more time for residents' comments. He said the conference session could turn into “total chaos” with residents speaking.
“That's a bad idea,” Loper said. “We've got to get our facts in order before we go to the public. I disagree with it.”
JEFF BARRON can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.